In the summer of 1949, the Communists won, and the future boded ill for religious groups. Again Ford was advised to leave but he refused to do so. He considered withdrawal equivalent to apostasy, a denial of the faith itself. He wanted to "minister to our people at the very moment they especially need spiritual aid to witness for Christ." If they were in danger, he wanted to be with them.
In December 1950, government troops arrested Bishop Ford. He was put on trial for subversion. Ironically, he was called an enemy of the poor. He was convicted as an American spy, but before his sentencing, his biographer writes, "he proclaimed his love of the Chinese people and his willingness to suffer, even to die, to show that love." On February 22, 1952, Francis Xavier Ford died in prison.
The ironic part was that Ford had worked hard for years to overcome the perception of missionaries as foreign agents. Love, he wrote, was "the bridge" that transcended cultural differences, and his work in China was a labor of love, a love that entailed a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. This year, as Maryknoll celebrates its centennial, offers an opportunity to remember a modern-day martyr.